BioCassava Plus (BC Plus) is an integrated team of scientists from Africa and North America whose objective is to reduce malnutrition among the 250 million people in sub-Saharan Africa who rely on cassava as their staple food by delivering a more nutritious and marketable cassava.
BioCassava Plus is an innovative research project that aims to reduce micronutrient malnutrition by increasing the nutritional value of cassava, a staple crop consumed by more than 700 million people worldwide. BC Plus is focused on Africa, primarily Nigeria and Kenya, where cassava is a major staple food and other nutritious food is scarce, unavailable or too expensive.
More than 250 million sub-Saharan Africans rely on cassava as their major source of calories. However, a cassava-based diet does not provide complete nutrition and those who depend on cassava for food often suffer from chronic malnutrition, or insufficient intake of essential nutrients and vitamins including pro-vitamin A and iron. According to the World Health Organization, this malnutrition often leads to blindness and other illnesses, disability and death for an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 children each year.
BioCassava Plus is aimed at helping Africans avoid these devastating health consequences by delivering more nutritious, higher yielding, and more marketable cultivars of cassava. The cassava being developed will contain beneficial amounts of beta-carotene, which the human body uses to make Vitamin A, and iron. Beta-carotene is contained in various foods today, but those foods are not readily available to many people in the developing world.
Researchers working at the National Root Crop Research Institute in Nigeria and the Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Institute lead the efforts aimed at improving food security and nutrition in their countries and ensuring the cassava varieties meet the needs of farmers. The BioCassava Plus project is also exploring the possibility of working in additional countries in East Africa, especially Uganda.
The project is working on the development of two products, one for West Africa and one for East Africa. The West Africa product is a desirable, widely-used cassava cultivar that is modified to have 40 PPM on a dry weight basis of both B-carotene and iron in the storage roots and is targeted initially to Nigeria. The East Africa product, a cultivar that is resistant to cassava mosaic disease (CMD), is modified to possess 40 PPM B-carotene and to be resistant to cassava brown streak disease (CBSD). The East Africa product is targeted initially to Kenya and Uganda. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funds the vital work of the BC Plus project.